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Civil society should step in to monitor budget and governance

New Delhi: In times when transparency and accountability in governance gain increasing significance as tools to fill in the gaps of democratic deficiencies, a robust network of civil society and budget experts convened in Delhi to discuss theses aspects of deepening governance. The coalition, People’s Budget Initiative, (PBI), with a membership of diverse organisations working across different sectors in the country is organizing the national convention on pressing issues deserving a closer scrutiny and a larger public debate.

A two-day national convention on “Civil Society Budget Work and Governance Accountability in India: Continuity and Change” which aims to coordinate inputs of all those gathered at the meeting for improved budget and governance accountability began here on Tuesday at YMCA auditorium.

Noted activist Anjali Bhardwaj and the newly appointed Co-convener of PBI said that civil society should step up its responsibility to monitor and use whatever accountability and transparency tools are available.

“We as citizens need to ensure proper implementation of Clause 4 of the RTI Act which is about pro-active disclosure of information in the public domain, and is the least implemented section of the law even after twelve years of the legislation. There is an equally strong need for a grievance redressal law, referred as RTI 2 by some, so that the supervisory structures in the system can be held accountable. The Bill introduced in 2011 and widely debated for bringing in time bound grievance redressal needs to be passed by the Parliament. A host of other accountability legislations exist, but need to be implemented”, Anjali said.

She shared that accountability of private sector is also becoming important now. With a focus on e-governance, it is needed that information around people’s concerns and issues should be available in forms accessible to them.

Warren Krafchik, who heads International Budget Partnership, shared that budgets are a powerful way to link citizens with democracy and governance, and governments can engage citizens in these processes through open budgets. Southern countries have emerged as leaders in budget transparency norms shifting the global discourse on budget work. Open data is often conflated and confused with the idea of open government. There are success stories on how growing citizens’ involvement increases allocations, equity in budget, and effective spending of public money.

Subrat Das, the head of Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, (CBGA), and Co- convener of PBI shared that budget transparency still remains an unfinished agenda. Budget transparency at the grassroots level which provides locally relevant budget data about facility level services in a format that is easy to understand, and in a timely manner is yet to become a reality. This kind of information will help people connect with budget issues.

Apart from the inaugural session three other sessions were conducted during the course of the day wherein representatives of NGOs from all over India participated.

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